* Offer could help defuse patent war with Apple
* Could help Samsung avoid hefty fine
By Foo Yun Chee
BRUSSELS, Oct 17 Samsung Electronics
has offered to stop taking rivals such as Apple Inc to
court over patent disputes in a move which EU antitrust
regulators hope will end the so-called patent war between tech
companies in Europe.
Samsung's proposal, which may help defuse a long-running
patent war between the world's two biggest smartphone makers,
comes after the European Commission said last year that its
patent lawsuits broke EU antitrust rules.
It may help Samsung avert a possible fine that could reach
Samsung and Apple are battling each other in courts in more
than 10 countries, as they vie for control of the lucrative
mobile market. Samsung's mobile devices unit accounts for about
two-thirds of its total profit.
"Samsung has offered to abstain from seeking injunctions for
mobile SEPs (standard essential patents) for a period of five
years against any company that agrees to a particular licensing
framework," the Commission said in a statement.
Standard essential patents are central to smartphones and
tablets, and are supposed to be licensed broadly and
The EU watchdog said Samsung proposed a 12-month negotiating
period with companies keen to use its patents, and that it was
willing to let a court or an arbitrator set a fair and
non-discriminatory fee if the talks failed.
The Commission said interested parties had a month to
comment on Samsung's proposal.
The South Korean company said: "Samsung is committed to fair
and reasonable licensing of our technologies and believes a
balanced approach to patent licensing will promote innovations
to the benefit of consumers and the industry."
Apple declined to comment.
Some antitrust lawyers said the Samsung proposal could
strengthen patent seekers' positions.
"The real issue here is the balance of power in licence
negotiations. It may be that companies seeking licences are not
willing to pay a reasonable fee, knowing that the patent holder
is obliged to grant the licence," said Alec Burnside, managing
partner at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft.
"It is unsatisfactory simply to say that patent holders
can't take injunctions. It affects the balance of power in the
negotiations. There is nothing inherently wrong in patentees
enforcing their rights," he said.
The Commission, which also charged Google's
Motorola Mobility with a similar anti-competitive practice in
May, said the Samsung case would bring clarity to the mobile
Microsoft, which has filed a complaint about
Motorola with the Commission, pledged last year not to seek
injunctions against licensees.
The United States earlier this month banned the sale of some
older Samsung smartphones and tablets because the devices
infringe Apple's patents.